Mumbai holds vigils on eve of 26/11 attacks anniversary | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai holds vigils on eve of 26/11 attacks anniversary

mumbai Updated: Nov 26, 2009 09:06 IST

AP
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Ahead of Thursday's first anniversary of the deadly terror attacks that paralysed Mumbai for 60 terrifying hours, groups around the city held vigils, calling for police reform and painting murals to remember the 166 killed.

On November 26, ten Pakistan-based gunmen fanned out across Mumbai, shooting up luxury hotels, a major train station and other sites, as police and military struggled for nearly three days to regain control. Seven men were charged in Pakistan on Wednesday for their roles in the assault.

Two non-governmental groups gathered 100 people to paint about a stretch of wall in south Mumbai, where the attacks were focused. "We want to make sure 26-11 is not just forgotten," said Shaina NC, one of the organizers.

Schoolgirls left red handprints on the yellow wall. Someone painted "I (heart symbol) Mumbai" in big black letters. A man left the words "Wake up govt" in drippy red paint. A woman in a black chador wrote in small block letters: "We forget what they were dying for."

Police, who were criticized for being poorly trained and under armed, are using the anniversary to showcase security improvements made over the last year.

Camouflaged armored vehicles and bright yellow boats - part of Mumbai's new 1.3 billion rupee ($27.7 million) plan to beef up security - rumbled up Marine Drive on Wednesday morning, rehearsing for an official parade on Thursday.

Mumbai's new Force One commando unit, an elite anti-terror brigade of more than 200 men, was inaugurated on Tuesday. But during the two-hour ceremony, several commandoes, clad in dark blue, fainted in the heat.

A handful of people from a citizen's group gathered outside the Taj Mahal hotel Wednesday evening to urge further police reform. They lit candles and chanted a patriotic song in Hindi before a flank of flashing cameras.

"The tragedy took place precisely because the police miserably failed in its duties," said Shukla Sen, a member of the Citizens Initiative for Peace, formed last December. "The functioning of the police must improve."

In the evening, religious leaders and diplomats gathered for a memorial service at the Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue. A dozen policemen with sticks and one with a rifle guarded the street outside.

"We will not let the terrorists deter us," said Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, who is in charge of rebuilding the Chabad House, a Jewish center run by the Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement, where six people were killed. "We will continue with the full faith in God that he will protect us."

Diplomats from Canada, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy and the US lit candles in memory of people from their countries who died. Muslim, Christian and Parsi leaders from India lit candles in memory of the Indian dead.

Tal Abraham, 78, a Jewish Indian who has lived in Israel for 49 years, said he'd come to the city especially for the commemoration. "I'm too sad," he said.

Five young Indian men who studied under Gavriel Holtzberg, the rabbi at Chabad House who was killed along with his pregnant wife, came too.

"He guided us on how to live as a Jew," said Daniel Pezarkar, 21. "Now nobody does."